GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL STATION, Cuba—One of the men charged with organizing the Sept. 11 attacks almost got thrown out of a military commission courtroom at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on Thursday, after standing up and shouting at the presiding judge over his treatment at the nearby detention center.
"In the name of God, there is an important thing for you," yelled Walid bin Attash, a Yemeni accused of training the Sept. 11 hijackers as well as participating in other attacks on U.S. government facilities. A translator relayed his courtroom statements.
"I am not here to testify. You are giving us an order to come to the court on the first day…" he said to lead judge Army Col. James Pohl, before the judge cut him off.
Cheryl Bormann, bin Attash's attorney, was at the time arguing that some of her client's private legal materials were removed from his cell, including while he was in court on Monday. All of the five detainees, including alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, must appear in court on the first day of the week's hearings.
Bormann was wearing the traditional black robes and headdress often worn by Muslim women. She covers herself when her client is in the courtroom out of respect, she says.
Pohl assured the courtroom that the incident was being investigated, and threatened to remove bin Attash if he didn't sit down.
Defense attorneys argue their clients were robbed of private attorney-client correspondence during an October "baseline review." Detention facility officials thought contraband had come into detainees' cells through their official legal communications, and ordered the contents of all of their legal bins be seized and searched.
During testimony on Tuesday Army Reserve Lt. Col. Ramon Torres, a military lawyer, said this search created an ethical dilemma.
Torres was assigned to Human Resources Command here, where the detainees are housed, starting in the summer of 2011. Due to his high security clearance, he was tasked with delivering mail to the high value detainees and described the process to the court.
When he first arrived, he would bring mail delivered to the detainees cells and open the mail under their observation. He would check for physical contraband such as paperclips or staples by flipping through the pages like a deck of cards, he said.
Following notice of the supposed contraband leak, all materials were brought to a supervising authority who opened all mail in private and stamped each page that had been cleared. Torres does not believe any of these officials read the communications.
"I thought it was going to make my job a little more difficult because the detainees have a lot of respect for lawyers," Torres said. "With a couple of exceptions, I had two-way respectful relations with most of them."
"So whenever we started delivering envelopes that were already opened, obviously that's going to cause some concern," he added. "They knew I wasn't going to be looking through their stuff, but it wasn't good business, in my opinion."
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Corrected 02/14/2013: An earlier version of this article misspelled Cheryl Bormann's first name.